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Modern Universities

The end of the medieval period marked the beginning of the transformation of universities that would eventually result in the modern research university. Many external influences, such as eras of humanism, Enlightenment, Reformation, and revolution, shaped research universities during their development.

By the 18th century, universities published their own research journals, and by the 19th century, the German and the French university models had arisen. The German, or Humboldtian model, was conceived by Wilhelm von Humboldt and based on Friedrich Schleiermacher’s liberal ideas pertaining to the importance of freedom, seminars, and laboratories in universities. The French university model involved strict discipline and control over every aspect of the university.

Until the 19th century, religion played a significant role in university curriculum; however, the role of religion in research universities decreased in the 19th century, and by the end of the 19th century, the German university model had spread around the world. Universities concentrated on science in the 19th and 20th centuries and become increasingly accessible to the masses. In Britain the move from industrial revolution to modernity saw the arrival of new civic universities with an emphasis on science and engineering. The British also established universities worldwide, and higher education became available to the masses not only in Europe. In a general sense, the basic structure and aims of universities have remained constant over the years.

The University of Constantinople, founded as an institution of higher learning in 425 and reorganized as a corporation of students in 849 by the regent Bardas of emperor Michael III, is considered by some to be the earliest institution of higher learning with some of the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence, et cetera). If a university is defined as "an institution of higher learning" then it is preceded by several others, including the Academy that it was founded to compete with and eventually replaced. If the original meaning of the word is considered "a corporation of students" then this could be the first example of such an institution.[4]

If the definition of a university is assumed to mean an institution of higher education and research which issues academic degrees at all levels (bachelor, master and doctorate) like in the modern sense of the word, then the medieval Madrasahs known as Jami'ah ("university" in Arabic) founded in the 9th century would be the first examples of such an institution.[5][6] The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is thus recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri.[7] Also in the 9th century, Bimaristan medical schools were founded in the medieval Islamic world, where medical degrees and diplomas were issued to students of Islamic medicine who were qualified to be a practicing Doctor of Medicine.[6][8] Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in 975, was a Jami'ah university which offered a variety of post-graduate degrees (Ijazah),[6] and had individual faculties[9] for a theological seminary, Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, early Islamic philosophy, and logic in Islamic philosophy.


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